Cinematic Releases: Paris Can Wait (2017) - Reviewed

Eleanor Coppola has lived quite a lifetime.  Being married to Francis Ford Coppola for fifty-four years with a family as American Zoetrope filmmaking empire, Eleanor was right there on the firing lines and trenches for her husband’s arduous journey making Apocalypse Now, documented in Eleanor’s award winning Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse.  She has since watched son Roman and daughter Sofia spread their film directing wings, arguably succeeding her husband’s creative output.  In between working closely with Francis on a now lucrative and highly successful winery line, Eleanor penned the memoir Notes on a Life about her own journey beside her husband’s eclectic filmmaking career.  Now reaching eighty-one years old, Mrs. Coppola offers up her first fictional film effort as a writer-director: Paris Can Wait.

An exceedingly simple premise, Diane Lane plays Anne, a neglected housewife married to a perpetually preoccupied and tense Hollywood producer named Michael (Alec Baldwin) who has been summoned to troubleshoot a Moroccan film production.  Intending to reunite in Paris, Michael enlists the help of business partner Jacques (Arnaud Viard) to transport Anne to Paris.  What follows involves an unlikely bordering-on-affair journey of friendship, self-discovery, fine wine and endless delicious entrees.  Think of it as a sort of HGTV: The Movie and you’ll find some pleasure in watching wealthy people enjoying living luxuriously.

A light-hearted romcom of sorts, from the outset this semi-autobiographical promenading travelogue through all of France’s high watermarks smells more than a bit like a smug vanity project with Eleanor celebrating her fortune being married to Francis.  Once the film gets going however, this obvious Vanilla Crème Brulee while overtly schmaltzy and kind of clichéd does wind up offering a quiet and endearing charm not felt in the movies since Steven Spielberg’s The Terminal.  What should have been easy to dismiss as opulent self-indulgence turned out to have a few unexpected life lessons and entertaining vignettes along the way.  

While Alec Baldwin is sadly overlooked here, the show mostly belongs to longtime Coppola collaborator and friend Lane, who still exudes radiance and warmth as she approaches middle age.  Viard as Jacques is, well, your stereotypical smooth talking “French” playboy who knows every obscure restaurant and museum in the book. While some critics have understandably taken umbrage with this overly romanticized caricature of the debonair and suave Frenchman, Coppola peppers the proceedings with enough human warmth and revelations that we accept the clichés for what they are and enjoy eating them up anyway.

Most who have seen David Lean’s Summertime know the terrain of international romance with opulent scenery and tourist attractions as the backdrop, and needless to say Paris Can Wait doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from the pack but I doubt Mrs. Coppola cares about that.  Tired or inspired, what the wife of one of the world’s towering cinema giants has created is a surprisingly life affirming little ode to renewing one’s lust for life even after you think you’ve experienced all it has to offer.  Although you can’t make a comparison between this and the still masterful Apocalypse Now documentary, Eleanor Coppola’s light semi-autobiographical yarn though saccharine as white chocolate proved to be a swell time at the movies with more than a few charming little surprises along the way.  

- Andrew Kotwicki